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Exploring the Treasure Box – Writing with Self- Assessment

Last newsletter, I gave away  a treasure box (drop box) full of my teaching resources for free! If you missed out on that, I’m sorry, but be sure to subscribe to the newsletter so you never miss out on more fabulous freebies.  This week I wanted to take a few moments to explore some of those resources that I spent time putting together for teachers, and how I use them in the classroom.

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Take a closer look!

First up?  Let’s talk about a subject I’m passionate about; writing!  For a long time, I’ve wanted a student self-evaluation tool in kid-friendly language to give my students more ownership and focus to improving their writing.  I could never find a commercially made tool that I liked, so I decided to make one myself.  Here it is:

I just run this off on both sides and have my students staple it to their story. Now when they say they are “finished” a piece of writing, I have them go through their story one “box” at a time. By the way, I love the boxes! It makes the evaluation process so flexible, yet target.  Here are just a few ways that I use the boxes:

  • Mini-lessons on each box: e.g., Today we are focusing on Content. Take a look at the content box on your marking guide. What are we looking for? What does that look like in a story? Exemplars are great for this. Now look at your story. Focus only on the Content box.  Does your story have quality content?
  • Have the whole class edit their existing story for one of the boxes one checkbox at a time. Break out your blue crayon for one checkbox, a red for another, and so on.  This works especially well when focused on the conventions box.
  • Conferencing and goal setting with a student.  The boxes really allow you to focus in on one specific area that the student needs to work on to improve his/her writing. I use this along with my writing conference sheets. After reviewing a piece of writing, the student and I will discuss a “next step” goal to improve their writing. I ask them which “box” they think they need to work on most.  The process really helps them take ownership for improving their own writing.
  • You Mark, then I mark.  Finally, I love, love, love, the idea that the students always mark their writing first, before I do. Along with all the checklists, there’s a place for them to assign a mark to their work before I mark it.  This gives them the opportunity to evaluate and improve their writing before they come to me with it. It also gives me the opportunity during conferences to point to the checklist and say can you show me where you found examples of this or that in your story?
  • As an added bonus I included new story planners in the package. I was so tired of students trying to navigate the “rising outline” story planner, so I re-invented it with kids in mind. The result is below.  The kids love it.  They are creating much more detailed plans because the spaces direct and focus their thinking.  Several students have all told me that they like it better. It’s definitely a keeper in my writing program.

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This is just one of the tools I’ll be highlighting  from our treasure box over the next few weeks. Do you have ideas for other teacher resources you’d just love to have?  Subscribe and shoot me an email about it.  It just might become our next fabulous freebie and you’ll get it free!  What could be better than that?

Until next keep teaching and “treasuring” our special young people.

Best,

Sharon

Easy Steps to a Differentiated Spelling Program

25waysspellingfunEach September I begin by asking my students why we write? I want them to fully understand that the basic purpose of writing is to communicate our ideas. Grasping this concept is a step in the right direction to having them want to improve their skills.  After all, if they work at developing good writing skills, it will be easier for them to get their message across.

This leads us to the spelling issue. In this day and age of spellcheckers and technology, do we really need to focus on spelling in school?  The answer is yes. Poor spelling leads to miscommunication, so I use an example of poor spelling to get my point across.  After seeing the difference that spelling makes to the clarity of a message, students are eager to improve their skills, but the traditional spelling list does little to actually help them achieve their goals. The trick is tailoring the spelling instruction to individual needs of students.  This is a summary of how I differentiate to meet the spelling instruction needs of my students. I hope it will help you meet the needs of your students, too.

  At the end of these lessons, you will be able to:

*identify and share the different purposes for writing

*identify improving spelling as a way to better communicate in writing

*identify and apply common spelling generalizations in own writing

Write this message to your students on the board or pop this picture up on your smart board.  Turn and talk with an elbow partner:spellingexemplar

Why was it difficult to read the message?

In a whole-group discussion, share the problems with the message: spelling, punctuation, printing.

What would you do to improve the message?

Give students a copy of the message and see if they can work with a partner to make it better.

Hand out new notebooks that the students will use to improve their spelling of the words they don’t know. Label the book with “My Spelling Words to Study”.

Explain to the students that we all have different spelling skills, just like we all wear different shoe sizes. That’s why we all need to work at learning to spell different words, but first we need to know which words we need to work on.

Follow up with a test of the top 300-500 (depending on grade level) high-frequency words. It may take several sessions to complete this diagnostic assessment. I usually give about 50 words at a time. Higher grades may want to use words  500+. I recommend using Rebecca Sitton’s Spelling Sourcebook

After each test, mark the student’s work and circle each misspelled word and write the correct spelling word beside the misspelled word.

Following the tests, have students transfer the first ten of the correct spelling of the words they need to know to their “Words to Study” list included in this package. We will repeat this each week from the 300 words. After that, I will give a new test of the next 100 high-frequency words and/or use the “problem words from their writing”. Students now have an individualized list of words that they need to work from during the year. Each week they will work on these words during their word work time using a variety of generic spelling games and study activities which have been taught.

For home practice,  I give students a recording sheet to make their lists each week.  This is how I set mine up:

Each week the students will refer to their “Words to Study” list to make their spelling list to study for that week. If you are teaching specific spelling patterns each week, you may have them choose five words from the list and five words from the spelling pattern you are currently studying. They make two copies of the list.  One that goes home to study and one that stays at school for the peer test that students give each other later in the week. If students do not spell every word on their  “Word Work/Spelling List Record Sheet” correctly, they must transfer the words they got incorrect, to next week’s list  and continue to do so until they have mastered them. Each week that they master their list, they get a coin for their “Master Spellers” certificate. At the beginning of the year,  I also send home the “25 Ideas” in two page protectors. Students can post these on their fridge for fun ways to practice their words at home.easyspelling25ways

Vital to student success and growth in spelling will be the provision of many goal-setting conferences to identify successes in improved spelling in their writing.  The connection between good spelling skills and clarity of written messages needs to be continually reinforced during these teacher-student conversations.  These conferences should go a long way towards helping students see that their efforts are resulting in progress toward their better spelling and communication goals.

On in my TPT store, I put together a complete package for you to help get you started. In it,  I tried to include everything you’ll need for your word work program this year. Included in this package you’ll find:

easystepsmultisheet* My Word to Study Listwordstostudypic

*Student Spelling List Record Sheets

* Student Spelling test sheets

* Word Work Activity Ideas

* “Master Speller” coin collector student sheet

I hope this is a valuable resource for you in providing a differentiated spelling program for the students in your classroom. The whole package is on sale this week to give you a chance to get it, and try it, for an introductory low price.  Check it out here:

EASY STEPS DIFFERENTIATED SPELLINGcoins

Questions? I’d love to hear from you. What do you do in your classroom to differentiate instruction for students?

Best,

Sharon

Introducing Lynn Horn to The Quest Teaching Team!

Teachers,

Click to learn more!

 

The Jewel of Peru was written for all readers who love a great story,  but also for teachers who want an effective way to hook students into learning! Here is what a recent reviewers had to say:

The educational value of many of the places and objects that are so well-described here cannot be overstated – from 18th century sea craft to gemstones to the wonders of Peru and the perils the natural world is facing, there is learning material for readers of any age. —Kelley Fitzpatrick Holland

Teachers are always looking for ways to ‘hook’ their  students on reading. Here it is-adventure, danger and intrigue wrapped into one super book!”    —Carol Jones

To provide even more educational value to the novel and its use in the classroom, I am honoured to announce that I have teamed up with  Teacher/Author Lynn Horn to bring you more excellent teaching materials.  She has joined the Quest Teaching team as the creator of teacher products to support my novel, The Jewel of Peru.  She also has many other quality educational products that you might find helpful in your classroom so give her store a look today! The 2nd edition of  the novel has just been released and  is now available for a short time at the introductory price of  99¢.

TheJewelunit

Click for Teaching Resources for the Jewel of Peru

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“Hi, I’m Lynn from TiePlay Educational Resources. I’ve worked with kids for over eleven years, and I have recently decided to homeschool! I’m a certified teacher for elementary grades PK-6 and SPED Pk-12. I have a B.S. in Exceptional Child, M. Ed, and an Ed.S in Curriculum and Instruction. I have four wonderful children, a great husband, and two fluffy cats. I have many hobbies, cooking, reading, gardening, traveling and creating educational materials for teachers. I am a big history buff and I learn new things each and every day.”
Thank you, friend!
Best,
Lynn
Check out all of Lynn’s teacher products at: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Tieplay293827